VOA Persian Interview with US Congressman Don Bacon
In an interview with VOA’s Farsi Service, Dan Bacon, a Republican in the US Congress, said that the United States is a friend of the Iranian people, but that the religious regime in Iran, as the world’s largest exporter of terrorism, is an enemy of the United States.
Read the full text of this interview below:
Question: The Atomic Energy Agency says that Iran is injecting uranium gas into advanced centrifuges at the Natanz underground facility. The media also reported last week that President Trump has asked the Pentagon to offer potential options for responding to Iran’s nuclear program. Are you worried about this as a member of the House Armed Services Committee?
Bacon: I’m definitely worried. Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons will be one of the biggest threats in the world. Israel does not rule out the existence of a nuclear-armed Iran, and if Iran is on the verge of achieving it, the situation could deteriorate rapidly. Ensuring that Iran never has a nuclear weapon should be our first priority. For this reason, I am very determined about the need to maintain economic pressure on Iran. We have reduced their oil exports, cut off their access to finance, and must continue to put pressure on Iran.
QUESTION: President Trump’s administration has recently announced a significant reduction in the number of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. You have been sent to the Middle East four times, including to Iraq, and you are aware of the danger of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. How can we be sure of controlling these militants after the reduction of American troops?
Bacon: We cannot leave Iraq or Afghanistan completely because the vacuum created will be filled by powers that oppose our values and pose a threat to our country and our friends in the region. Therefore, in order to prevent the return of ISIS, Iran’s non-domination of Iraq, or the Taliban’s non-domination of Afghanistan, and to protect the security of the leaders of those countries and, consequently, the security interests of our nation, maintaining a minimal and sufficient presence in these countries is crucial. Iran is a threat in Iraq. During my time in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, Iranian-backed militias attacked us every day; Militants led, financed, and trained by Iran and sometimes even commanded by Iranian Quds Force officers. I am aware of the danger of Iran in Iraq. There is also this evil threat in Afghanistan, and we must deal with it. Therefore, I am very worried about the withdrawal of too many troops. We must have a sufficient presence there and protect and strengthen those governments so that they can remain in power, thus protecting our national security interests.
Question: November is the first anniversary of widespread anti-government protests in Iran. The Iranian regime brutally suppressed these protests by killing hundreds of men, women and children, and arresting thousands. What is your opinion about the struggle of the Iranian people for their own future?
Bacon: We are friends of the Iranian people and the Iranian people are not our enemies. I have many Iranian friends. My dream, and that of most Americans, is to one day see in Iran a government that represents the people – a government that respects dignity and human rights and creates a charter of rights for the Iranian people. We stand with the people of Iran and we want them to enjoy the same rights and freedoms that we have in our country. This is our goal. I want the Iranian people to know: You are not our enemy. Our enemy is not the people of Iran, but the religious government and the largest exporter of terrorism in the world, the ruling government in Tehran.
QUESTION: The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to promote its official policies of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. You have been an advocate of the “Never Again” education law and have supported the work of organizations such as the Holocaust Education Institute in your home state of Nebraska. Should the United States take more international action to counter the Islamic Republic’s vindictive anti-Semitism?
Bacon: Qassem Soleimani was the most anti-Semitic person in the world, and our president killed him when he was plotting in Baghdad to carry out more attacks against the Americans. I supported this action; Soleimani had killed 609 Americans in Iraq alone. He was also a major threat to Israel by supporting Hezbollah, Hamas, and Shiite militias throughout the region. But this does not end with Soleimani. Iran has replaced him, and they and their leadership are strongly anti-Semitic and determined to destroy Israel. I think they are a threat to the United States and Israel. So, the United States must present the Iranian regime as it is – an anti-Semitic power in Tehran. Our most important force is not just the military; Rather, it is the force of truth, and telling the truth about the goals of the Iranian regime is very powerful. But we cannot be vague in this regard and we must be very transparent.
QUESTION: What do you think about the recent historic US-mediated peace agreements between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan, and the resulting changes in the region?
Bacon: My concern during President Obama’s administration was to focus on Iran. This had created a rift between us and the Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and so on. President Trump has cleverly focused our policy not on Iran but on our Arab allies, and this is where we can be very influential. Reaching that agreement between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and then Bosnia was extraordinary in Europe. Now there are other countries that are almost ready to sign an agreement with Israel. In my opinion, the existence of this direct dialogue with the Arab countries showed that their main concern is not Israel, but Iran. But in the past, our focus on Iran had distanced us from the Arab world, weakened Israeli-Arab negotiations, and hurt us in the face of ISIS and al-Qaeda; Because we need not Iran, but our Arab allies to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda. So, the current government has rightly given priority to focusing on the Arab countries and building and strengthening those coalitions. We are witnessing their convergence against Iran, but it has also helped build a stronger dialogue with Israel. We have seen it begin, and if the next government continues on the same path, we will see more success in the future.